Hampton Court Palace

I went to Hampton Court Palace a few weeks ago with my family for a day out. The Palace was once the home of King Henry VIII and was built in the Tudor style in 1514. The building and grounds are huge, with mazes, gardens and so much more.

Walking up to the Palace and through the entrance was a large courtyard. There were huge tall pillars along a walkway leading to other rooms, high walls with a decorative clock and a fountain with statues to depict what life may have been like.

Inside were some beautiful rooms and staircases. The King’s Staircase was especially wonderful, with a huge painting across the entire wall and ceiling, and an intricately made handrail leading up the stairs.

The rooms were set up as they would have been when it was lived in, with costumes and props on display and with facts of King Henry’s life there. The inside ground walkways opened up to courtyards that had fountains and statues.

On the other side of the building was the was the Queen’s Staircase, also quite beautiful, and was lit in a soft, warm light.

After looking around the main part of the Palace we headed towards the gardens. The Great Fountain Garden is one of the largest and was one that we came upon first. Just as we entered a horse and carriage pulled up, and we all piled on excitedly for a ride around the garden.

After our ride we walked towards the other gardens, the main one was The Privy Garden which was set out in an Italian style and was very well looked after. Along one side was a long, vine coloured walkway which was lovely for a stroll. Nearby were other well kept, but smaller gardens. I personally loved walking through the rose garden which gave off an amazing scent.

The Palace also had a maze, which is England’s oldest surviving at 300 years old. We had fun looking for the centre and then our way out. Next we visited the huge play area for children, with high bridges, hills and sculptures. Hidden away, the Palace also had The Great Vine, the largest and oldest known grapevine in the world, at over 240 years old.

There was a lot to see, with some beautiful, grand rooms, staircases and gardens, and we easily spent a whole day there, after which we were all completely exhausted. I can see now, why Hampton Court Palace is so popular and it was amazing to see and learn about the history of how Kings and Queens of our past lived in such an opulent palace.

St Dunstan in the East

London has some beautiful old buildings, some that are hundreds of years old. One such building that I visited recently was St Dunstan in the East which was a church built in 1100. It was badly damaged in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and then again in the second World War, after which instead of repairing, was turned into a public garden. Over time nature has grown around and over the stunning, ornate walls, doorways and windows making the view look almost enchanting and something out of a romantic fairy tale.

The steeple built by Sir Christopher Wren has survived and stands tall over the garden, and the rest of the building built in a gothic style looks even more amazing as it has been weathered by time and the elements.

The vibrant green leaves of the shrubs and climbers create a drastic contrast against the huge, grey stone walls as well as dampening the noise a little making it easy to believe that you’re the only one around.

This garden is tucked away in the centre of London and surrounded by modern buildings looks almost surreal. Once you’re within the walls though you feel transported to an older time, and the tranquil feel of the place along with the stunning architecture and nature make this a spot that I would love to come back to.

Impromptu visit to Kew

One of my favourite places in London is Kew Gardens, so when my sister and her husband invited me for an impromptu trip recently I couldn’t say no. Kew is known for having plants, trees and flowers from around the world, there’s so much to see and it’s a great place to get lost in for the day.

First stop was the Hive which is a large structure made of metal and has lights that blink according to bee activity in a real beehive at Kew.

You can’t go to Kew and not visit the Palm House, which holds tropical plants from around the world. It’s usually really hot in here and as usual I had to wait for my camera to de-fog before I could take some photos. One plant we were pleased to find was the Sensitive plant. When you touch the open leaves they react immediately and close together.

From there we went to the Waterlily House hoping to find the giant lily pads that I remember from my childhood but have missed on my previous visits. Unfortunately they’d been moved, so I’ll have to try again another time. I did, however see some pretty waterlily flowers though.

Next we went to the Woodland area, and with it being late summer and the weather unsettled we got caught in a heavy downpour, thankfully though we were able to shelter under a giant Elm tree until the rain stopped. The Woodland area had a great number of trees of all types, my favourite though were the Redwood trees. These giants have a reddish, rough grain trunk and can grow to a phenomenal size.

Walking further along came across a huge wooden table, which seems like it would be perfect for all my family when they come to dinner! And hidden nearby was a log trail that you could walk across, made up of different types of trees, so educational as well as fun. There was also a badger set and tunnels you could go into.

By the time we reached the log trail we’d made it to the far end of the grounds and it was getting late so we started heading back towards the gates. I had a relaxing, fun day out and it’s always a pleasure and a privilege to see the beautiful plants, trees and flowers that can be found around the world so close to where I live.

Holland Park, London

We’ve had some lovely weather this summer in London and I was able to make the most of it by going to Holland Park one sunny day. The park has so many different types of plants and flowers, and it was a delight to walk along the winding paths taking in all the vibrant colours and varying scents.

One of the main features of the park is it’s beautiful Japanese Kyoto Garden. I was surprised to see that they had Koi carp (and pennies) in the pond as well as a peacock strutting around. There was a pretty waterfall and a walkway that allowed you to cross the pond and through the garden. I found the garden very peaceful and aesthetically pleasing.

There are also some smaller gardens within the park, some that held interesting statues, and others that had stunning flower displays, as well as a giant game of chess.

Overall the park had some beautiful features and you can tell it was very well maintained, and on a sunny day it made for a lovely day out, one that I would definitely recommend.

Slowing Down a Waterfall

I tried my hand at creating a misty water effect on a waterfall in the park yesterday. This is usually achieved by slowing down the shutter speed to allow the light into the lens for longer and creating a sense of movement as the water falls.

Here’s the fountain on a normal shutter speed. You can see that the water is frozen in time and is broken into droplets.

In this second photo where I slowed down the speed of the shutter you can see that the water looks continuous and misty, like flowing water.

The key thing with trying to create a misty effect is that you need a tripod to hold the camera completely still while the shutter closes, as any movement causes the photo to become blurry, like the second photo is a little as I was holding the camera in my hand trying to be still.

I’m pleased with the results so far but hopefully I’ll get more practice and a tripod so the next time I come decide to shoot a flowing river, rapid stream or just a pretty fountain I can aim to get some great photos.

Mayfield Lavender Farm

Last weekend my sister and I made the trip to Mayfield Lavender Farm in Surrey, something we’d been wanting to do for a long time. As soon as we reached the farm we could smell the lavender even before you caught sight of any. Walking up to the fields we could see rows and rows of lavender; I couldn’t wait to take to take a closer look and take some photos.

As we made our way up the fields we could see hundreds of bumble bees flitting from flower to flower, stem to stem, gathering pollen. In the fields there were picnic tables, a red London phone box and structures to create photographic backdrops. There was also a tractor that you could take a ride on that would take you across to the far end of the land.

The farm was much busier than I anticipated and it required a lot of patience to try and get the type of photos that I wanted. There were people doing live chats, making videos and taking lots of photos for social media which has made a place like this very popular.

After walking through the fields soaking in the beautiful scent of the lavender and the stunning purple views we decided to head to the gift shop to see what we could take home to help make the experience and sensation continue into our homes. There were lots and lots of lavender based products on sale. There were bunches of lavender, with a pretty bird enjoying the view, lavender flavoured drinks, jams and fudge. They also had a book for visitors to leave messages in and I was surprised to see that visitors had come from all around the world to see the flowers.

After looking around we opted for some lavender flowers for ourselves and our mum, some chocolate and some soap. Then feeling weary we started our journey home, with one last look as the fields.

The trip to the lavender farm was great, although the flowers weren’t as vibrant purple as I expected (maybe they would be earlier in the season, July to September), the view was still amazing and the scent was so fragrant and relaxing. I would definitely recommend a visit to a lavender farm, but some advice I would offer is to get there early.

Cherries

During Ramadan I watched the cherries on the tree in the garden grow, redden and become ripe. There was no sense in picking them though as there wasn’t a lot of time (or stomach space) for cherries, but on Eid the family all got together and picked the big, juicy cherries that had been tempting us for so long. Here’s some of the hundreds that we picked, and that were thoroughly enjoyed by all.